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IP/07/334

Brussels, 15 March 2007

Three new Community Reference Laboratories will ensure reliable testing of food and animal feed

The safety and quality of food and feed are a growing public concern and research plays an increasingly important role in this sector to ensure consumers' confidence. The European Commission is setting up three laboratories to support national authorities in their efforts to keep food and feed free from dangerous substances. The three Community Reference Laboratories for heavy metals, mycotoxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) will be opened by European Commissioner for Health, Markos Kyprianou at the Commission's Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements in Geel, Belgium on 16 March. Heavy metals, mycotoxins and PAHs are all substances with potentially harmful health effects that can be found in food. These laboratories will validate testing methods, develop reference materials and measurements and provide training and other tools to national laboratories so that food and animal feed can be kept safe across the EU.

EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said: "A strong pan-European network of Laboratories is essential to create a more efficient regulatory framework and to boost public confidence in the safety of our food and feed products. So I welcome the inauguration of these new Community Reference Laboratories, which will provide essential scientific data and contribute to informed and responsible policy decisions"

Three Community Reference Laboratories (CRLs) will be opened at the Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements:

  • Heavy metals: these substances are present in all foodstuffs. Some are important for our nutrition, but others, such as lead, cadmium and mercury, have no nutritional value and can indeed in some cases contribute to serious illnesses such as cancer, or damage the central nervous system.
  • Mycotoxins: these are substances produced by fungi growing on food and animal feed. Estimates show that up to 20% of food products may contain mycotoxins, which can cause anything from mild to serious illness.
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs): these are compounds which can enter food during production processes. Some of the compounds can cause cancer or DNA mutation.

Through the Community and National Reference Laboratories, a system will be in place that will effectively control that the presence of these substances is kept below the limits established in legislation as being safe.

These three CRLs ensure that the testing for these substances is performed to a reliable standard across the food chain. To do so, they will provide information, training and support to the European Commission, national enforcement agencies and the food and feed industry regarding the presence of the three substances.

They will validate methods for the detection and monitoring of the identified food hazards and organise comparative tests so that the national laboratories can benchmark their capabilities. The CRLs therefore contribute to European consumers' confidence in the overall system put in place to guarantee the safety of their food.

CRLs are created under EU legislation to make the EU regulatory system more efficient with the same high level of laboratory performance across the EU.

http://www.jrc.ec.europa.eu/default.asp@sidsz=more_information.htm


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